We’re back! I know, you missed me. Missed you guys too! I have been finishing up the work for my Masters degree which I will graduate with in about a week. I’m back right in time for football training camps. I find it fitting to make my first post concerning the 2017 NFL season about pressure. Here are 10 people who enter training camp, and this season, with a ton of pressure to perform. Let’s go!
10. Dak Prescott
I know, I know. Rookie of the year, 13 and 3 record. Yea, I’m a Cowboys hater. Fine. But Dak’s number 10 on this list, because of all those things. Last season, having Romo in Big D took some pressure off of Dak, while also lit a fire under him. Romo was a de-facto QB coach, and his presence kept the pressure on Prescott to perform, or he could easily lose his job. Now, with Romo gone, so is his mentor, and competitor. Can Prescott be the singular man in Dallas? With a leaky defense, and much harder schedule, they’ll need him to be even better than he was last season.
9. Cam Newton
A year removed from coming off an MVP season, and Super Bowl appearance, Cam has a ton of pressure on him. Was 2015 simply an outlier season? Can he return to his 2015 pre-Super Bowl self? Can he bounce back and show that his porous 2016 season was a blip? The Panthers need Newton to be a leader on and off the field.
8. Joe Flacco
The Ravens QB has made his early 2010s playoff success look like a fluke. Ever since the improbable Super Bowl run in 2012, the Ravens have made the playoffs just once. After losing Hall of Fame and Pro Bowl talent on defense to pay Flacco like the franchise QB he claims to be, the Ravens have been a mediocre at best, and often pretty bad football team. Pressures on you Joe to show the Ravens they didn’t make a mistake in 2013.
7. Chuck Pagano
The Colts bought in a new GM, added talented players on defense, helped sure up the offensive line, and Andrew Luck is returning to health. Chuck Pagano needs to win the AFC South to keep his job, and that may not be enough. The division is one of the weakest in football, but with the rise of the Texans and Titans, that may soon change.
6. Matt Ryan
28-3. MVP quarterbacks win that game. Matt Ryan has the pressure on him to show last season wasn’t just a magical run (that ended in disaster), but that he can lead the Falcons to perennial NFC dominance. Entering a new stadium, with the memories of the biggest choke in sports history fresh on Atlanta fans’ minds, Matt needs to put away those images and lead the Falcons back to the big game, and hopefully not give it away.
5. Marvin Lewis
15 years. 0 playoff wins. Zero. None. Nada. Typically black head coaches have a short leash, but this guy breaks the mold! You have to wonder what secret info he has on Paul Brown. Why is he only number 5? Because I have reached the point where I believe Lewis will coach the Bengals in a wheelchair. He’s got 9 lives. He’s not going anywhere, and neither are the Bengals.
4. Mike Tomlin
I’m sorry, I’m just not a fan of the rah-rah Tomlin. The Steelers may be the most talented team in the NFL offensively. However, they lost games last year to below average teams, and therefore had to travel to Kansas City and New England in the postseason. They can be temperamental and inconsistent. The Steelers lack discipline and focus. These are indictments on the head coach. The Steelers have a Super Bowl roster, let’s see if Tomlin can make them a Super Bowl TEAM.
3. Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers
2011 it was the rust. 2012 it was Dom Capers. 2013 it was the defense. 2014 it was injuries. 2015 it was the injuries. 2016 it was the secondary. For the last 6 years there’s been a new reason why the Packers haven’t made the Super Bowl. Enough. At some point, you have to look at the coach and quarterback. You’re the best quarterback in the conference, and arguably the NFL. Enough of the start slow, everyone panic, get hot, make a run, win a weak division and lose in the playoffs trope. I expect McCarthy and Rodgers to dominate this season, from start to finish and win the Super Bowl. If they don’t get there, this season is a disappointment.
2. Alex Smith
Is Alex Smith ever not playing to keep his job? In 2011, the Niners drafted Colin Kaepernick, and he eventually took over in San Fran. This spring, the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes, a big, strong, mobile kid with an absolute cannon for an arm. Alex is the starter, but I think he’s taken the Chiefs as far as he can. At some point, Andy is going to want to stretch the field, and open up his playbook with his new favorite toy. If the Chiefs don’t win early and often this season, it will be groundhog day for Smith.
1. Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins has never beaten a team that was above .500 when he played them. Never. Not once. He has decided to bet again on himself, and refused to negotiate a long term extension in Washington. For a slightly, maybe above average QB, you have to marvel at his confidence. He’s lost Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson, so the pressure on him will grow even more. Kirk’s not a franchise QB, but he wants to be paid and treated like one. This season, he has a ton of pressure to perform, win, and earn a big pay day, either in DC or somewhere else. He’ll have a start by beating a good team, for once in his career.
By: Corey Johnson
Can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org